We are currently making improvements to the Audible site. In an effort to enhance the accessibility experience for our customers, we have created a page to more easily navigate the new experience, available at the web address www.audible.com/access.
 >   > 
Water for Elephants Audiobook

Water for Elephants

Why we think it’s a great listen: Some books are meant to be read; others are meant to be heard – Water for Elephants falls into the second group, and is one of the best examples we have of how a powerful performance enhances a great story. Nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski reflects back on his wild and wondrous days with a circus. It's the Depression Era and Jacob, finding himself parentless and penniless, joins the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.
    • 1 audiobook per month
    • 180,000+ titles to choose from
    • $14.95 per month after free trial

Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential: Two narrators weave together strands of a story spanning decades. David LeDoux portrays the lead character in his twenties and John Randolph Jones is the same character 70 years later. Both are excellent, but Jones' rough bass filled my head with the joys and pain felt by the old man, in a way that the voice I hear when I read to myself could never have done. One of the most outstanding audiobooks I've ever heard! —Beth Anderson

Publisher's Summary

An atmospheric tale of life and love in a Depression-era traveling circus.

Nonagenarian Jacob Jankowski reflects back on his wild and wondrous days with a circus. It's the Depression Era and Jacob, finding himself parentless and penniless, joins the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. There he meets the freaks, grifters, and misfits that populate this world. Jacob introduces us to Marlena, beautiful star of the equestrian act; to August, her charismatic but twisted husband (and the circus' animal trainer); and to Rosie, a seemingly untrainable elephant.

Beautifully written, with a luminous sense of time and place, Water for Elephants tells of love in a world in which love's a luxury few can afford.

©2006 Sara Gruen; (P)2006 HighBridge Company

What the Critics Say

  • Book Sense Book of the Year Award, Adult Fiction, 2007
  • Audie Award Finalist, Fiction, Unabridged, 2007

"Water for Elephants resembles stealth hits like The Giant's House, by Elizabeth McCracken, or The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold, books that combine outrageously whimsical premises with crowd-pleasing romanticism. . . . With a showman's expert timing, [Gruen] saves a terrific revelation for the final pages, transforming a glimpse of Americana into an enchanting escapist fairy tale.” (New York Times Book Review)

"Just like a circus, the magic of the story and the writing convince you to suspend your disbelief." (Booklist)

"Gruen skillfully humanizes the midgets, drunks, rubes, and freaks who populate her book." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.4 (16116 )
5 star
 (9200)
4 star
 (4604)
3 star
 (1567)
2 star
 (436)
1 star
 (309)
Overall
4.4 (8368 )
5 star
 (4904)
4 star
 (2203)
3 star
 (874)
2 star
 (239)
1 star
 (148)
Story
4.5 (8285 )
5 star
 (5541)
4 star
 (1984)
3 star
 (537)
2 star
 (120)
1 star
 (103)
Performance
Sort by:
  •  
    Pearl Anna McElfish 01-31-08 Member Since 2010
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    53
    2
    Overall
    "Excellent!!!!!!!!"

    This book was wonderful

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Darla Miami, FL, USA 01-28-08
    Darla Miami, FL, USA 01-28-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "I never write reviews"

    However, Ms. Gruen's writing was so visual and descriptive I was there as the story was told. Her change of the main character telling his story from the age of 23 to 90 (or 93) was seamless. I was mesmerized. I hope you will be as well.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Georganne Glocester, RI, USA 01-28-08
    Georganne Glocester, RI, USA 01-28-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    18
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    77
    10
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "a bit depressing"

    Great narration. Good ending. It took almost all of part one to get me interested though. I don't like hearing about animal cruelty and human cruelty both of which are prevalent in this book. A depressing look at aging as well. It just wasn't in my top 25.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rosalie Wavell Heights, QLD, Australia 01-26-08
    Rosalie Wavell Heights, QLD, Australia 01-26-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Delightful"

    Great Narration! This novel was such a pleasure & visual candy! Enjoyed it to the very end & was dissapointed when it finished.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Karen Soddy Daisy, United States Minor Outlying Islands 01-22-08
    Karen Soddy Daisy, United States Minor Outlying Islands 01-22-08 Member Since 2007

    I am an educated Southerner, plowing through books at the speed of light. I love good stories, good coffee, and good conversation.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    51
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    133
    24
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    3
    2
    Overall
    "Love it!"

    This book is very much worth listening to. I think what really makes this book -- besides the compelling, well-paced storyline and beautiful love story -- is the narration. It is so believable and in the moment. I could not stop listening!

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joanne Minnie 01-20-08 Member Since 2013
    HELPFUL VOTES
    11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    17
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "very good story"

    This was such a very good story; heartwarming, tragic, heroic, entertaining. Life on a circus from behind the scenes in a depression era America. Something happening in every chapter and a great ending.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    kivanix 01-15-08
    kivanix 01-15-08 Member Since 2007
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    4
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Excellent comment on elderly life"

    This book gives an excellent insight in to elderly life. A well researched book with wonderfull anecdotal information about the circus life of old, a sad comment on how we treat the elderly and the meaning of life for an elderly person. An extrememly good read.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gayle Falls Church, VA, USA 01-11-08
    Gayle Falls Church, VA, USA 01-11-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    22
    1
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Fabulous"

    Absolutely love the book, and the recording. The characters ring true, and the vicarious experience of that long-ago time and escapist, cut-throat, romantic "business" is rich.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kathleen Alexandria, VA, USA 01-04-08
    Kathleen Alexandria, VA, USA 01-04-08
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    23
    1
    Overall
    "My New Favorite Book"

    This unusual story is compelling and well written. What would give someone an idea to write about these subjects? I "googled" Sara Gruen to find out. Every once in awhile a book will come out that I never want to end and recommend enthusiastically. This is one of those books.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sue Visalia, CA, United States 01-02-08
    Sue Visalia, CA, United States 01-02-08 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    15
    4
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    "Wonderful!"

    Both the young and the old main character are wonderfully portrayed in this book with excellent readers. I was left at the end wishing for more.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • Suzannah
    Nottingham, United Kingdom
    8/16/11
    Overall
    "Water for Elephants"

    Both strangely exotic and nostalgically familiar, this tale of tenderness found in the harsh reality of circus life and enduring love stolen from cruelty is captivating and entrancing. Told through the eyes and voices of an old timer and his younger self, it flips from past to present and back again with ease and manages to bring two stories together with equal strength and interest. A beautiful story that is beautifully read by the narrators.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Fran
    LONDON, United Kingdom
    8/30/11
    Overall
    "wonderful!"

    I listened to this for a second time when I had exhausted my new supply while away.
    And it was just as enthralling as the first listen.

    Brilliantly written and wonderfully read by the two readers.
    I can't recommend it highly enough - one of the best audibles I've listened to.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Kelly
    7/5/11
    Overall
    "A true love story"

    A true love story written to thrive in the 21st Centry, from the charactors to the plot line its well written and addictive.........

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Paul
    Swindon, United Kingdom
    11/15/11
    Overall
    "The film does not even get close."

    I could not put this book down.
    I remember exactly where I was when things happened in this book.
    The character of the old man is explored to the fullest extend, this character made the story, and was completely overlooked in the film version.
    Perfect for a holiday, or summer commutes, as I did.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • w
    east horsley, United Kingdom
    11/7/11
    Overall
    "loved it"

    Unusual subject and not one I would normally choose. It made me laugh and cry. Brilliant. Do read it

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Claire
    Yate, United Kingdom
    10/30/11
    Overall
    "Absorbing"

    I wasn't sure if I was going to like this audiobook when I started listening to it as I found the hopping between the current and past a little hard going and the older person's voice difficult to understand at times. But, I'm glad I perservered with it. The story is very original and draws you in. Worth a listen

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • joanna
    Bingham, United Kingdom
    10/2/11
    Overall
    "Wonderfully engaging Big Top Book"

    This book tells the story of a young man thrown into the life of a circus worker after his parents are killed. The wonderful transition between times takes the listening into two very different but equally compelling settings. Brilliant !!

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • holly bird
    6/30/11
    Overall
    "Great Original Story"

    Great to read an original book for a change. I knew nothing about the american circus trains, and now I do! Takes place during the American Depression. The love story is a bit lame but otherwise a terrific listen.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Annie
    Derby
    10/22/10
    Overall
    "I Loved it!"

    A really enjoyable listen, on a par with 'The Help'. This has been one of those books I couldn't wait to get back to; it was really well structured and well read, I was thoroughly entertained the whole way through. I highly recommend this audiobook.

    16 of 18 people found this review helpful
  • Madgey
    7/18/11
    Overall
    "Enjoyed every single second …."

    It left me wanting more…. I did not want the story to end. I laughed and cried. This is a tale simply told, an account that was both funny & sad, on times illustrating the cruelty inherent in some human beings and the goodness of others. The narration was outstanding, it brought the wonderful characters to life and I could really see them through ‘Jacobs’ eyes. It also made me think about the value we place on our elderly population. Can’t wait to watch the film, hope it lives up to the book.

    9 of 10 people found this review helpful

Report Inappropriate Content

If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.

Cancel

Thank you.

Your report has been received. It will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.